Sorry to disappoint, folks, but somehow I just never got round to getting any cake today 😦 Then again, I have fun plans for the weekend, so some cake may creep in there…
What I thought I’d do instead would be to ramble on for a bit, as you do (or rather, as I do!). You see, I would never have said that I was a really calm, laid-back person. I’m not overly prone to getting stressed, either, just… well, somewhere in the middle. But since coming to Paris I find that I’m increasingly seeing myself (and perhaps being seen) as a kind of tranquil presence in the midst of a sea of madness.
As I am increasingly coming to realise, the average Parisian (and maybe this is true for the inhabitants of other big cities too, but it’s Parisians that I know) is usually in at least one of two situations: being in a rush and/or being late. I would also say that the majority of the time, these two things are in fact self-inflicted.
Maybe it’s this that makes them such bad drivers: they should have been somewhere five minutes ago, and so they develop a mentality of ‘Is that a space I can fit through? It’s about the width of my car. But if I tuck in my wing mirror, I’ll gain an extra few centimetres, so I’ll definitely get through it. Oh damn, there’s a motorcyclist. Well, I’ll just beep my horn then’. Beeping the horn is not a productive action: usually employed in situations where the target can’t actually move because there’s a massive line of other vehicles blocking them, it acts as a mild release of tension.
Now I must admit, I am not entirely immune. Taking advantage of a turning bus that’s blocking traffic to zip across a junction is now completely legitimate, as is abandoning the cycle lane because I can edge up a bit closer to the traffic lights by weaving through three lanes of traffic, and taking the most direct route across a roundabout rather than all of this ’round’ rubbish. (A low point was probably cutting across the blind side of a refuse truck turning right: a narrow miss for what could have been a very embarrassing accident).
However, I would also like to think that I still have a sense of humour. I had to laugh at the coach driving down the rue Saint-Honoré today (I mean, cars struggle to make it down there without lots of stopping and weaving, so the bus had no chance! Good on him for giving it a go though!), even if I did get stuck behind it, and the squadron of firemen running across my path in their matching red lycra shorts are forgiven, as are the tourists who had sent up their auto-timer to have a romantic photo by the Seine (and may or may not have my back wheel in it as well!).
Perhaps what differentiates me from the average Parisian is that my aim is just to be here, not to earn loads of money or make really useful business contacts or some other ‘really-super-important’ purpose. So I finish work, and yes, I’d quite like to get home, but in a “isn’t the Seine looking beautiful this evening? And my old friends Simón (Bolívar) and Komitas are there, as ever, and ooh look, they’ve changed the window display in that shop I cycle past every day, and what’s he wearing… (etc)” sort of way. So this evening I went for a run by the river and then had a shower and then remembered that the Louvre opens late on a Friday so popped over there and wandered around the sculpture galleries and then headed home past the brass band busking and thought that the drunk guy dancing with a bottle of wine in his hand was their conductor for a while, and then was delighted to see that ‘Henry Cuir’ (and I don’t know if that’s Henry as in Thierry, French footballer formerly of Arsenal, or as in real name of Prince Harry), the shop two doors down where they’ve been frantically decorating, is now open and has a cool display in the window with beads artistically scattered to look like they’ve just been dropped (or perhaps someone dropped them and didn’t have time to pick them up) and some nice but expensive looking shoes.
Basically, it always seems to me that Parisians have somewhere to be: somewhere else that they absolutely must get to as soon as possible. The man with the teeny tiny dog that he has to carry up the stairs from the Métro station, the guy with the really long thin piece of plywood, anyone driving a taxi or delivery van, the woman with five baguettes in her handbag, the jogger having what is clearly a work-related conversation on his mobile (via headphones) as he runs along the river path: they could all be doing something more interesting, productive and worthwhile, somewhere else (or at least, that’s what they think). And me? I’m in Paris, and for the moment that’s enough.